shit happens

I mentioned before that I’d had some dreadful air-travel experiences since moving to the US. Well I’m having one now sitting at Chicago Logan [doh! Boston I mean] posting from my Blackjack for the first time.

Left Huntsville mid-afternoon Friday bound for Gatwick via Atlanta on Delta58. All like clockwork until an hour or so into the Atlantic near Nova Scotia. Diaper blockage in the plumbing puts all the restrooms out of action ?!?

So, back to Boston; Attempted plumbing maintenance at 2am. Lots of standing in line and attempts at sleeping on the floor until fixed aircraft and fresh crew ready to go, Without food and up against Gatwick ops curfew at 11.45am saturday. about 1pm still idling on the tarmac with a new cockpit warning light. Back to the gate. Beboot the entire 767 by powering down.

Watch this space. (Update Sunday pm) Yep, diaper confirmed. Makes a change from Tornados and Thunderstorms I guess.

The second fault was some pressurisation valve problem – quickly fixed. Anyway underway around 2pm Saturday from Boston, arriving post-curfew around 2am Gatwick Sunday, and getting to the London hotel around 4am eventually.

The ground ops at Chicago will no doubt be getting plenty of letters of complaint – most of the individual staff you could sympathize with – but who was in charge, did anyone have a plan ?

Myself amongst several passengers pointing out the real issues long before they were acknowledged. Never mind the plumbing – that was a stratighforward problem – what about the expiring crew, what about catering; if we were going to be spending the night, how long was it going to take to organise hotels (or anything, given that the airport terminal was completely closed). Once we were re-scheduled for 11am the following morning – starting to organise hotels around 3 am when they would need us back at the airport by 9ish – there was several hours of booking and checking in before anyone could think of sleeping in a hotel bed. By this time two nights of sleep deprivation meant I was nauseous simply attempting to stand in line – and these lines were a shambles. (Must be an American politeness thing, but why will desk staff not turn away people who walk up to the front desk with “questions” whilst there are hundreds waiting in line. Why do they let such “questions” turn into system queries and processing of bookings !! Grr. There are only two polite answers to such questions “Yes, please stand in line”, or “No, please stand in line”.)

Then, given the 11:45am re-scheduled departure – already getting into abnormal post-curfew ops for arrival at Gatwick – why were we letting ourselves slip to 1pm, whilst waiting for catering supplies for a 6 hour flight ? Most of the 250 waiting passengers were demanding we leave without food, long before the staff suggested it. The especially bright and breezy PR member of the new crew, in her bight red uniform and conspicuous red bow was the red rag to many impatient bulls – yes dear, we all thought of these issues hours ago – don’t expect a medal.

Earlier, the captain of the original crew hadn’t helped, though he tried, by coming up to the lounge periodically to give us updates – because his updates were not credible, nor even consistent with what the other staff seemed to know. If you don’t know the outcome to a problem, don’t guess the timings, just tell us what you’re doing.

After the debates about catering and the Gatwick curfew, having been raised in the lounge, and the ground staff assuring us an abnormal operation deal had been arranged, the first thing the replacement flight-deck announced when we had boarded was that we still had ground checks to complete and we might still miss the Gatwick curfew – if the curfew was still applicable we had already missed it surely – much confusion & consternation. Only much later in the flight was there any announcement that we had an abnormal slot arranged – which must have been the case all along – surely the flight deck would not have been given clearance without a flight plan ?

No idea what happened to those with onward connections – there didn’t seem to be any special arrangements awaiting at Gatwick, despite assurances.

Disruption one can accept – operational this time, not just weather as per usual – but surely an airline like Delta has plan B’s for these cases ? (Full marks to Gatwick for the immigration and baggage handling at 2am.)

2 thoughts on “shit happens”

  1. What a wretched day. Nothing worse than sitting in a crippled, crowded plane and not knowing where you are! (Logan is in Boston; Chicago has O’Hare and Midway.) It’s March 28, do you know where you are today?

    I’m still stuck in San Diego. If you ever get out this way, let me know and I’ll buy you a drink!

  2. Oh yeah Georganna, well spotted, I say Boston Logan (and meant Boston Logan) later, but opened with a mistaken reference to Chicago (!). Hee Hee. I wish I could say the irony was deliberate humor, but it wasn’t 🙂

    As you say, a sure sign of disorientation.

    (I’ve had similar experiences in both Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas too, three times in Dallas.)

    Never seem to manage to get myself west of Denver …. one day.

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